Queen of Katwe

It’s not that Lupita Nyong’o hasn’t kept herself busy since her Oscar win for 12 Years a Slave. But we’ve barely seen her, because her two biggest recent roles, in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Jungle Book, have kept her wonderfully expressive face offscreen. Fortunately, that changes this fall with Queen of Katwe.

Directed by Mira Nair, the based-on-a-true-story drama stars Nyong’o as a poor single mother raising a 10-year-old daughter, Phiona (played by newcomer Madina Nalwanga) in rural Uganda. Phiona’s life takes an unexpected turn when she meets a missionary (David Oyelowo) teaching local children how to play chess, and discovers she has a natural talent for the game. Watch the Queen of Katwe trailer after the jump. 

The first Queen of Katwe trailer looks a little familiar. It doesn’t particularly help that we just recently saw an unrelated fact-based drama about the uplifting power of chess. Still, it looks like potentially powerful, touching stuff. Nyong’o and Oyelowo look rock-solid as always, and Nalwanga — an actress so unknown she doesn’t even have an IMDb page yet — already looks like a fantastic find. With this top-notch cast and the very talented Nair at the helm, we can probably expect something a cut above the usual movie-of-the-week schmaltz.

Queen of Katwe is out September 23. Here is the incredibly long, incredibly detailed official synopsis from Disney:

Queen of Katwe is the colorful true story of a young girl selling corn on the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess, and, as a result of the support she receives from her family and community, is instilled with the confidence and determination she needs to pursue her dream of becoming an international chess champion. Directed by Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding) from a screenplay by William Wheeler (The Hoax) based on the book by Tim Crothers, Queen of Katwe is produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher (The Darjeeling Limited) and John Carls (Where the Wild Things Are) with Will Weiske and Troy Buder serving as executive producers. The film stars Golden Globe® nominee David Oyelowo (Selma), Oscar® winner and Tony Award® nominee Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.

For 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga) and her family, life in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle. Her mother, Harriet (Nyong’o), is fiercely determined to take care of her family and works tirelessly selling vegetables in the market to make sure her children are fed and have a roof over their heads. When Phiona meets Robert Katende (Oyelowo), a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local children chess, she is captivated. Chess requires a good deal of concentration, strategic thinking and risk taking, all skills which are applicable in everyday life, and Katende hopes to empower youth with the game. Phiona is impressed by the intelligence and wit the game requires and immediately shows potential. Recognizing Phiona’s natural aptitude for chess and the fighting spirit she’s inherited from her mother, Katende begins to mentor her, but Harriet is reluctant to provide any encouragement, not wanting to see her daughter disappointed. As Phiona begins to succeed in local chess competitions, Katende teaches her to read and write in order to pursue schooling. She quickly advances through the ranks in tournaments, but breaks away from her family to focus on her own life. Her mother eventually realizes that Phiona has a chance to excel and teams up with Katende to help her fulfill her extraordinary potential, escape a life of poverty and save her family. Disney’s Queen of Katwe will open in U.S. theaters on September 23, 2016.

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